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The Silent Sisters–extracting spies from Russia

The Silent Sisters

by Robert Dugoni

Spy thrillers are not my go-to genre, but I read The Last Agent, the second book in the Charles Jenkins Series, thinking it was a standalone. I was hooked. I returned to read the third in the series, The Silent Sisters, when it was published recently. Both were page turners.

Charles Jenkins, the protagonist, is a semi-retired spy with quite the reputation in Russia where The Silent Sisters takes place. It is Putin’s Russia so the book brings together some of recent Russian history with current events. Moscow is covered with cameras as Jenkins goes in to rescue the two remaining deep undercover plants known as the Seven Sisters. Before he begins his mission, he works with specialists in disguise techniques at Langley because, as a large Black man on Russia’s top 10 kill list, he is easy to spot, especially given their expertise in facial recognition technology. His perhaps fatal error is trying to help an abused stranger in a seedy bar on his first night there. His principled act begins a manhunt by the police, the Russian spy agencies, and the mafia.

At home in Washington state, he has left a wife who formerly worked for the CIA, two children, and a retirement he hasn’t really gotten to enjoy yet. Thoughts of his family keep him going when things get brutal.

Descriptions of the physical settings and the atmosphere of suspense and tension are achieved with excellence. The reader is immersed in each setting from the Trans-Siberian train making its way to freedom to the offices where directors of intelligence agencies compete for power and for their lives. Each setting has its own gripping tenor.

Author Robert Dugoni is a master at keeping all the balls in the air until it is time to draw things to a conclusion. Then he works the circumstances to arrive at a satisfactory ending that is hopeful, but realistic.

I believe this set of books was originally conceived as a trilogy. The author hints in the Acknowledgments that his upcoming trip to Egypt could be the impetus for more adventures featuring Charles Jenkins. I hope so!

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Thomas & Mercer for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller

Notes: 1. #3 in the Charles Jenkins Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. There is some Russian included for atmosphere, but unless the meaning is obvious, it is seamlessly translated for the reader in the text.
3. There is a small amount of swearing, including one word in Russian.
4. It is a spy novel involving Russian agents and the Russian mafia so you can expect some torture, but the descriptions are not detailed or extensive.

Publication: February 22, 2022—Thomas & Mercer

Memorable Lines:
The pain shattered his skin like splinters of broken glass passing through his body.

She’d learned long ago, when her father had died, that vengeance did not bring satisfaction. It didn’t even temper the pain of death. It would not temper the pain of Eldar’s death. It only let others know that killings would come at a heavy cost. Retribution. An eye for an eye.

When you can have everything, you appreciate nothing.

The Last Agent–suspenseful spy novel

The Last Agent

by Robert Dugoni

Oddly, I have watched many more spy movies than I have read spy books. Robert Dugoni’s The Last Agent is a great pathway for me into the world of spy novels. It is part of a series in that Charles Jenkins is the main character in the series that bears his name. Although the characters are important to the story, appreciating the book is not predicated on having read others in the series. This book is a fine example of a story that is so engaging, so complex, that the plot stands on its own merits.

Charlie Jenkins is a retired spy, forced out by his own organization. He tries to enjoy rural life with his much younger wife and two young children. When opportunity knocks at his door, however, Charlie answers with minimal hesitation. This assignment is especially appealing because it gives him the chance to help Paulina who sacrificed herself so that he could return to his family. An extremely strong double agent mentally, she is questioned relentlessly with physical and psychological torture by Russians who want to know the identity of certain assets.

Charlie is supposed to engineer her escape from an impenetrable prison and see her to the U.S. and freedom. She is in an extremely compromised physical condition and is heavily guarded. Getting her out would take a lot of skill and planning along with a dose of good luck. The Russians want her information badly and have the advantage of Putin’s extensive “Big Brother” network of cameras. Fortunately, Charlie has support from his handlers with assets all over Europe and a huge bank account that gives him leverage with a former Russian agent.

There are so many intricate steps in achieving the various goals along the way. Not everything goes smoothly so a lot of improvisation is required. Hideous weather both hinders and helps. Disguises and unusual means of transportation are called into play. I guarantee this book is a page turner that will keep you reading way past “lights out.”

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Thomas & Mercer for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller (Spy)

Notes: #2 in The Charles Jenkins Series, but I read it as a standalone with no problems understanding or enjoying it.

Publication: September 22, 2020—Thomas & Mercer

Memorable Lines:

His anger spiked; he couldn’t believe the agency that had allowed him to be tried for espionage now had the audacity to seek his help.

You Americans are too impatient. It is your consumerism. You want everything now. This minute. You must learn Russian patience. We must take the first step before we take the second.”

Viktor Federov knew well that Big Brother had returned to Russia, though the method of spying—once Russians reporting on fellow Russians—now employed computer technology cameras, and cell phones.

A Son for the Mountain Firefighter–a firefighter’s struggles

A Son for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

A Son for the Mountain FirefighterHonesty first! I know very little about firefighting. I had read one novel about a wildfire prior to reading A Son for the Mountain Firefighter. In traveling, I have seen groups of enthusiastic firefighters stopping for lunch on their way to fire camps. Of course, there is the occasional TV show with burning buildings, but they are pretty far removed from mountain firefighting. Melinda Curtis’ Mountain Firefighter Series contains an interesting blend of  romance and firefighter procedural.

Handsome Jackson Garrett, nicknamed “Golden” because of his luck, has demons to face: his status as a husband and father and his fear of fire after losing a rookie firefighter on his crew. Curtis takes us behind the scenes to see how hard the firefighting life is on the family back home and the difficulties of fighting fires fueled by dry foliage and fickle winds. We experience the firefighters’ camaraderie as well as the isolating necessity to show no weakness.

Although I was at times uncomfortable reading about fires, I learned a lot about the subject, which I consider a real plus. I enjoyed the characters who were realistically portrayed as simultaneously weak and strong. It was a fairly quick read and so interesting that I didn’t want to put it down. Now I’m looking forward to reading Twins for the Mountain Firefighter that focuses on Jackson’s best friend Logan, AKA Tin Man, a name given him by a “particularly disappointed woman” who “publicly proclaimed Logan to be lacking a heart.” 

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Action

Notes: #1 in the Mountain Firefighter Series—clean and heartwarming

Publication:   February 24, 2020—Purple Papaya Press

Memorable Lines:

“Love is about feeling closer to your partner than to anyone else on the planet. Feeling so close that you know what it is they need. And needing to be with them more than you need to breathe air.”

Oh, his anger. It tested her strength like a gust of cold, winter wind.

Not the honest sweat from clearing brush, but the cowardly sweat that clung to the body as tightly as the fingers of death.

The Spy Who Never Was–pretending to be Julie, called Chris, with code name Rose

The Spy Who Never Was

by Tom Savage

The Spy Who Never WasThe Spy Who Never Was poses a mystery within a thriller as Nora Baron, drama teacher and part time CIA operative, is recruited to play the role of a spy who has disappeared, but never actually existed—according to Cole, head of the investigation. The mission is never quite clear to Nora, even as it suddenly reaches its conclusion and she is congratulated and sent back home. At this point the thriller is far from over for any of its characters.

Nora finds herself in the ultimate danger and discovers she is both naive and talented. She is aided by friends from previous missions along with new friends she learns to trust along the way. With interesting characters, settings in Paris and Switzerland, a complex plot, and some believable action, this is a book you will not want to put down.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and Thriller

Notes: #3 in the Nora Baron series; works well as a standalone

Publication:   January 9, 2018—Alibi (Random House)

Memorable Lines: 

Professional agents knew their jobs, and they thought that no one outside their charmed circle possessed the imagination to do what they did. Now Nora could use their arrogant blind spot to her advantage.

Nora was working for phantoms, agents who were every bit as insubstantial as the paper woman they represented: the spies who never were.

…the words she shouted weren’t in the débutante handbook.

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